Dan Carlin is unique among political commentators these days, because his political position is not easy to pin down. He’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but he also can’t be labeled as towing the line of any third party.
Why Dan Carlin?
Because he’s a deep thinker, who adores history, and who will challenge your view of the world.
In the United States, people who pay attention to political commentators have probably noticed that there are basically two types of commentators to choose from: Democrats and Republicans. In general, journalists, pundits, and others who publicly talk about politics, are openly aligned with one or the other of the two major political parties in this country. Of course, there are a few fringe bloggers who call themselves Libertarians, Communists (or, more fashionably, Leftists), and so on, but these are the exception to the rule. And even in the case of these exceptional commentators, it is easy to locate a political label that fits.
The rule to which there are almost no exceptions on the political commentary scene is the rule that every commentator has a particular political party or ideology with which he/she is aligned. One of the few media personalities who does not claim any particular political ideology is Dan Carlin. He hosts two podcasts. The first, Common Sense, consists of his political commentary, and the second, Hardcore History, is a history podcast with political resonances. Although Carlin’s ideas are often controversial, his political position is impossible to label, and he gives listeners the impression that he wants it that way.
“Sometimes things turn out better than a pessimist like I believe they will. But someone has to take the reins. I despise the idea of doing it myself. But I also don’t want that wagon to go over the cliff without at least being able to say I made a dive for the reins before it did. It’s something that we all need to ask ourselves some hard questions about. If not now, when? Every year we wait, it’s only going to be harder and more daunting and more laughable that puny efforts of citizens will work. I feel as though I have waited long enough.”
Considering the Issues
Dan Carlin is certainly an outlier when it comes to political commentary, but his lack of a label makes him both interesting and important. He does not consistently agree with either Democrats or Republicans—most often he disagrees with both parties—but he arrives at all his disagreements through a consideration of the actual issues, rather than the labels that are typically associated with them. This idea may seem insignificant in writing, but in fact, it represents a type of political commentary and political thought that the American public, or at least the minority of the American public that follows politics, has all but forgotten about.
Common Sense and Reason
By commenting on political issues, using, as the title of his podcast suggests (in addition to referencing Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet), common sense and reason, Carlin is reminding people that it is possible to form an independent opinion about complicated political and economic issues, and that one needn’t have a law degree from Harvard to do so. This basic idea is crucial to American democracy, and Dan Carlin is the only voice in the media today who promotes it. Instead of attacking ‘the Left’ or ‘the Right’, Carlin looks at current events, at historical events, and at future possibilities, in order to arrive at conclusions about how our government is operating. In doing this, he is teaching his listeners how to do the same thing, empowering them to make decisions about issues that too many people feel are beyond their comprehension.
“As I’ve said many times, these people saw sights, and lived lives, and experienced things that the vast majority of people in the modern world, not only will never experience, but can’t even envision.” —Dan Carlin
The impossibility of easily labeling Dan Carlin’s political position is not the only good thing about his podcasts. He is also a skilled storyteller, with a talent for bringing historical events to life, and an ability to understand and explain the forces and motivations at work in events and actions at all levels of human existence. At the end of a Dan Carlin podcast, the listener rarely lacks a sense that she has gained a clearer understanding of the issue. Even if listeners don’t always agree with Carlin’s conclusions, he presents his topics in a way that empowers listeners to disagree with confidence—with the sense that they understand why they disagree.
This feeling of empowerment is one reason that Carlin has been rapidly gaining followers, and hopefully he will continue to do so.